Elevating Holmes Voices at Washington Week
Participants in the Holmes Summer Policy Institute in Arlington, VA, during AACTE’s 2017 Washington Week
AACTE’s 2017 Washington Week brought two dozen Holmes Program students from across the country to learn and advocate together in the nation’s capital. It was grand to reconnect with Holmes members I had not seen in months, to meet new members, and to network with leaders of the state chapters of AACTE – and of course to elevate our voices collectively in the halls of Congress!
Day 1 of my experience was the June 5 Holmes Summer Policy Institute, bringing program participants to a Virginia hotel for a day filled with speakers and panels on policy and advocacy for education. This motivating day provided insights into the paths that many Holmes alumni and other scholars have taken to champion and highlight the needs of education. These sessions prepared us for Day on the Hill by raising questions and building our awareness of key issues and resources that affect our research and interests. We capped off the day at a reception with State Leaders Institute participants from around the country.
Day 2 was the orientation portion of AACTE’s Day on the Hill, highlighting current federal policy and funding status related to education and providing information from people who worked on Capitol Hill, within the media, at universities across the country, and in other capacities to advance our advocacy skills. Speakers emphasized the need for action at the grassroots as well as the national level and reminded us that we have the ability to effect change at both levels. This day also proved to be a wonderful networking opportunity for Holmes Program participants to engage with professionals currently working in various positions within the field of education.
Day 3 was exhilarating and exhausting as we traveled to Capitol Hill proper and put our training to use. In our prearranged meetings with congressional representatives and legislative aides, I was able to get a glimpse of what it means to engage at the federal level. Being that this was the first time I was meeting with legislative aides and pitching my thoughts on teacher preparation and coaching education, I was nervous – but I knew from the lessons of the last 2 days that my voice was being heard. In those moments, I had an opportunity not only to shed light on my state’s and institution’s work but also to represent the Holmes Program – to spread the word about our efforts to support diverse students studying education at doctoral, graduate, undergraduate, and high school levels.
AACTE’s Washington Week raised many questions and provided not just answers but enduring lessons to ponder: That with education, our voice can and will be heard. That our teaching and research can serve as conduit for change. That serving marginalized groups and the field of education lifts us all higher. I learned the power of networking and the strength of community. There is power in numbers, and we have numbers here within the AACTE Holmes Program. I am empowered knowing that as a Holmes Scholar, I am supported by the force of so many others who are dedicated to lifting all people to a higher standard of excellence.